Who will I allow to teach me?
Galatians 4: They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them.
The Christians at Galatia are good hearted people. In fact, before they were ever established in the faith they welcomed a traveling preacher who was too sick to continue. These good people took him in, loved him, nurtured him to health, and then received his message. Their relationship was a mutual one. They gave him what he needed and he, in turn, shared with them the best news of all time. Now, though, we see the dark side of their hospitality. Others have come, claiming a “new” twist on the gospel Paul preached to them. These same people have welcomed these teachers and are now allowing these teachers to influence their understanding of how to live the Christian life. In many cases, seen more today than then, good, serious, honest people can arrive at differing opinions on a variety of spiritual issues. However, as we see in this passage, there are some who are out there teaching for all the wrong reasons. They’ve found that Christians are, indeed, a welcoming, generous people. They’ve found that if they say the right things they can gain a following of gullible sheep that can be manipulated to serve their own needs. In Paul’s day those teachers are perverting the gospel to mix faith in Christ with adherence to the Old Testament rules and regulations. Today, some are preaching a gospel of materialism and God-manipulation. Sometimes such false teaching rises from an honest failure to understand. However, as it was in Paul’s day, there are teachers out there who will say whatever they have to say to get whatever it is they want to get from gullible people. Generally speaking, their goal is either money or power or both. Paul practically begs his readers to hold steady to the pure gospel of Christ. In our day with unprecedented media access we can pretty much pick and choose those who we will allow to influence our thinking about spiritual things. More than ever we need to focus on Jesus and his Gospel.
Take Away: Who are you allowing to influence your thinking about spiritual matters?
Jeremiah 23: Isn’t my Message like fire?
The prophet is still thinking about the “peace and prosperity” preachers who feed their congregations a diet of “cake and ice cream” sermons. People enjoy these pleasant sermons, but what they’re hearing lacks God’s authority. Jeremiah calls such preaching “silly” and compares it to “straw” and not messages with real substance to them. The Almighty reminds Jeremiah that when the message he preaches comes from the Lord that his words are like fire and “like a sledgehammer busting a rock.” Two things come to mind here. First, the Lord’s displeased with preachers who focus on preaching entertaining, “what they want to hear” kinds of sermons. Second, there’s a great need for sermons with the fire of God’s Word in them. The first kind of sermon may get the preacher some compliments, but the second kind changes lives even as a sledgehammer changes a rock. I thank God for preachers who have ministered God’s Word to me by bringing sermons that were God-inspired and God-empowered. As a preacher myself, I don’t want to waste my ministry preaching “that’s nice, ho-hum” sermons. Life is too short and opportunities are too few as it is. Lord, let your fire ignite me, my sermons, and my listeners.
Take Away: There’s a great need for sermons with the fire of the word of the Lord in them.
Which church would you attend?
Jeremiah 23: They preach…their “Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to You” sermon.
Jeremiah isn’t the only preacher of his generation. In fact, he has plenty of competition from preachers who enjoy large followings and enthusiastic support. Folks love their positive, uplifting, and encouraging sermons. No doubt, these preachers find some really good texts that proclaim God’s love for and protection of his people. The problem is that their sermons are, in Jeremiah’s words, just so much “hot air.” The people in their congregations need to repent and return to God. The truth is that everything’s not going to turn out fine and bad things are coming, whether or not these preachers will admit it. Can’t you imagine a family getting ready to go to worship services? “Where are we going to church today, dear?” the wife asks. “I don’t know. Jeremiah’s preaching nearby, but you know he specializes in telling it like it is. I hear that the ‘Things are Great and Getting Better’ church has big things planned for today and they have a terrific praise band. Shall we go there?” So, where would I go to church? How entertainment oriented am I when it comes to worship? I’m not suggesting that “gloom and doom” is always God’s message while “happiness and security” is always just hot air. Still, I see here a reminder that there’s more to worship than a main course of an entertaining sermon with large helping of great music on the side.
Take Away: Sometimes God-directed preaching isn’t all that fun to hear.